I was born in St. Louis MO to a single teenage mom and we moved to Chicago IL before I was one-year-old. We were extremely poor and moved often before my high school years. I was very skinny and uncoordinated and had very little self-esteem. I decided to join the track team in high school but only ran track for one season because I wasn’t very good. At 17-years-old I graduated with honors from high school (I skipped the 6th grade so I was a year ahead) and my mom signed me over to the Corps. I joined the Corps to get a college education because I didn’t know about scholarships and grants. I discovered in boot camp that I was actually a fairly good runner at longer distances.
I was a private when I graduated boot camp and my MOS was a 6046 (Aviation Maintenance Administration) so I was “swinging with the Wing.” I remember working extremely long hours at my first duty station, MCAS Cherry Point NC. Although I worked long hours, I attended Craven Community College after hours so that I could work towards my degree. I did well in Cherry Point as I earned Meritorious Corporal. For PT, I did some running but I mostly attended aerobics class and at my next duty station, MCB Kaneohe HI, I became a certified aerobics instructor where I taught aerobics on Kaneohe Bay, Pearl Harbor, and Hickam Air Force Base part-time. In addition to being an active duty Marine and part-time aerobics instructor, I also worked part-time at the Kaneohe Bay Officer’s Club and I attended Hawaii Pacific University after work hours. I did well in KBay as I graduated NCO school as the 2nd honor graduated with a grade point average of 99%. The 1st honor graduated beat me by .1%. I was also a 300 PFT’er! I transferred back to Cherry Point where I was promoted to SSgt and eventually graduated from Park University as Summa Cum Laude (4.0 grade point average). I was the honor graduate for my class and I received a letter of Commendation from the Base Commanding General. Before I graduated from college, I had applied and was accepted into the Meritorious Commissioning Program (MCP). At this point for PT, I was teaching aerobics on base and running but I was also doing a significant amount of volunteerism (Big Brothers and Sisters, Habitat for Humanity, Young Marines, and Special Olympics). I earned and received the Military Outstanding Volunteer Service Medal from the Commanding Officer. To prepare for OCS, I stopped teaching aerobics and focused my time and energy on running and building upper body strength. At this point in the Corps, the women were still running a mile and a half for the PFT. Once I went to OCS, the women would be running three miles for the PFT so I had to train harder on my run. I discovered that I enjoyed running and the longer the run, the better!!! Once I graduated OCS and TBS, I returned to Cherry Point as a 2ndLt with a MOS of 3404 (Financial Management Officer). During my time in the Corps, I was stationed on the East Coast, West Coast, and deployed to the Horn of Africa in support of Operation Enduring Freedom. I would eventually retire a Major with over 24 years of active service.
I loved running. I felt like I was an average runner. I worked hard to obtain a 300 PFT score so I was good at whatever distance I had to run to achieve that score (1 ½ miles or 3 miles). I had my only child at the age of 30. For the first time in my life I had to actually lose weight. Running was the way that I lost weight. I ran my first half marathon six months after the birth of my daughter. After Oprah ran the Marine Corps Marathon, I decided I needed to run it as well…and beat her time! LOL! I ran my first marathon in 2002 in San Diego. I ran the MCM in 2005 and finished with at time of 3:59…I beat Oprah’s time. 😊 At that point I was addicted to running!!!! I have completed 176 marathons/ultras which include the following.
– A marathon in every state plus DC (completed in Sept 2016)
– A marathon on every continent (completed in Jan 2017)
– 100 marathons achieved in Mar 2016
– Four 100 mile races (placed 2nd overall women in Without limits 100 miler and 1st in the Athena division for Pistol 100 miler)
– One 51 mile relay (ran solo)
– Twelve 50 mile races (finished 1st in Pistol 50 mile in Mar 2019)
– Five 24-hour races
– Three 12-hour races
– Eighteen 50Ks
– One 49K in Anchorage Alaska
– Completed the Great Wall of China marathon May 2017
– 50+ half marathons
– Countless 5Ks, 8Ks, and 10Ks
Shattered the Guinness Book of World Records for fastest female to complete 7 real/public marathons, on 7 continents with a time of 7 days, 30 minutes, and 27 seconds. The previous record holder was over 10 days and 23 hours. Also, I was the first African American women to complete 7 marathons on 7 continents in 7 days. I qualified for the Boston and NYC marathons on my first attempt in North Bend WA during the Tunnel Vision Marathon with a qualifying time of 3:50:49. Four hours was the required BQ time for my age group (50-year-old female). The required qualifying time for the NYC marathon was 3:51 for my age group. In addition to running Boston and NYC marathons this year, I have also registered to run the Chicago marathon again and the Berlin marathon. One of my goals is to complete the Abbott World Majors which also include Tokyo and London marathons.
Three pieces of wisdom related to running:
1. Don’t be afraid to fail. There’s a lot of growth opportunity to be gained from failure. I failed at my first 100-mile attempt at the Keys 100 and I stopped at 50 miles during a 24-hour race. Life happens! Failure means you’re trying…and learning. I came back and completed the Keys 100 the following year and completed 77 miles during my next 24-hour race. A significant part of the failure is mental so mental toughness is built from failure. The key is to fail BUT try again with the lessons learned from failure.
2. Be consistent with your base mileage. Consistent base mileage is another key to ultra-running success. It trains your mind, body, and soul to handle the distance with relative ease. A significant portion of those base miles should be SLOW!!! You cannot run fast all the time. Leave the fast running to speed work days….you don’t want to leave your race in training. A minimum of 50 training miles per week should be sufficient.
3. Run Happy! I believe this is the key to longevity in running. We run on our off time….so it should be enjoyable. If you are running happy, you are relaxed, you not only will look forward to your races but you will also look forward to your training runs. Discover what makes you a happy runner and tap into that thing often. Avoid those things that still your running joy. For me, those are the treadmill (dreadmill) and running with people who complain. A happy runner is more likely to stay consistent with base mileage and won’t be afraid to fail at race or distance attempt because at the end of the day, he/she is doing what he/she loves…RUNNING!